Pretty much all my life I’ve been a walker. Well, since I physically started walking anyway. I was probably first exposed to it by grandmother – a notorious, regular walker. And not just a lap-up-and-down-the-street kind, but, a bushwalker. Born in Germany, she moved to Oz with my grandfather after the war. Although it was obviously a shock coming from the lush, green mountains of Europe to the dry, barren earth of Oz, both she and my grandfather grew to love it. They loved the little town where I was ultimately born, the frosty mornings and the dry hot summers. They loved the Australian bush. Every day, they would go for a five kilometre walk up the bush track out the back of my parents’ property in rural Australia. Through the pines, gum trees, up the steep orangey hills, breathing in the bush scents under the bright blue sky. My grandmother would march – it was her fitness, a power walk, for the generation that didn’t spend hours at the gym. A generation where there was real work, not the brain-numbing stagnation artificial environment of today’s office jobs.
And as a kid, I walked too. When I was about 10, I would go with my grandparents some mornings. Then, as I got older, attempting to navigate my way through those angsty teenage years, I walked alone. Along the same track that my grandparents did. I learned pretty early, that walking is about more than fitness, it’s a way to clear the head, rinse out the soul – blow the cobbies away as my mother would say. It also became a necessary form of transport, in that young adult independent time when one is still too young to drive, too cool to ride a bike, but wants to be able to get home when one wants, without relying on adults.
So, it was fortunate for me that I happened to find someone that is willing to walk with me all over this world. The love of it didn’t crystallise for the husband and I straight away – when I was a kid, it was just something I did. It came about when we better defined our shared love of travel to be a love of seeing beautiful things, natural beauty to be more precise. Not beautiful buildings – of which, of course there are some – but those places which are not manmade but exist as a wonder of this incredible world we live in. And so, it came about that for us “walking” transformed into “hiking” – which really just means, walking for the purpose of seeing beautiful things (note: bushwalking is a form of hiking). Oh, and occasionally you might have to work for it.
The transformation was so gradual, I can’t even tell you when it began. A key point however, was when I bought my first pair of hiking boots. Then one day, while testing them out on a waterfall walk not far from Apollo Bay, the husband ended up on one knee and I ended up with a ring on my finger. Apart from the obvious wedding which was to follow we began planning a much anticipated road trip across the South-West of America – which involved some mind-blowing hikes through the red rock national parks. I think by that point, we were both addicted.
Since then, and due to this ridiculous lifestyle we have been living these past 3.5 years, we truly have hiked around the globe. There was the trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The 4 day hike in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. And of course, countless day hikes in the USA, Romania, Argentina, Chile. This might make as sound like hardcore hikers – but in reality, that’s not the case – we have never had to carry our own tents or worry about cooking our own meals. And while we have talked about taking the next step towards self-sufficiency, it hasn’t happened yet. It may, it may not. Because, primarily the goal is: to see beautiful things. You don’t necessarily need to carry your own supplies or stay in a tent for that!
And yet, for me there is something more to it than that. The actual walking is good for the soul. Even though we exercise every day – which is also something crucial for a clear mind – I still walk. This walking isn’t about the body, and it isn’t about seeing beautiful things, as the view of the industrial gas plant, pipes and tanks as I trudge up and down the asphalt of the EGLNG trail would confirm. It’s about the mind – letting your mind go. And somehow making your feet march along does this.
The husband and I have many more hikes to do around the globe in the future. Now and then I contemplate a feat such as the Pacific Crest Trail – but generally come to the conclusion that I’m probably not that hardcore yet, and as much as I would like to come over all Cheryl Strayed in “Wild” – it’s probably not going to happen. Carrying your own water for 3 months is tough. That shit is heavy.
But whatever else, I’ll still continue to walk. From time to time, you should put on some sneakers and get out there. Your mind needs it.